‘The whole family is on edge’: Town Hall plan to combat overcrowding wins backing of residents and councillors

The council is planning to buy back 280 of its former homes

A mother has revealed that her toddler lacks “the freedom to play and learn” because of overcrowding.

The Camden resident spoke out to explain why families like hers need more space but are increasingly “being pushed out” the borough because of the housing crisis.

She grew up in an overcrowded home and said the pattern is repeating itself.

“The whole family is constantly on edge because we are on top of each other. That’s not the healthy space that you want.”

The mother, who wants to remain anonymous, supported Camden Council’s plan to buy back empty council homes to help tackle severe overcrowding, and the sale of some smaller homes to fund it.

The council is planning to buy back 280 ex-council homes worth an estimated £130m with money it makes from selling “unsuitable properties” in a bid to tackle the shortage.

It hopes the new strategy will relieve pressure on some families forced to live in overcrowded homes by providing an extra 410 bedrooms.

There are 4,891 families on its housing register in overcrowded conditions, including 6,880 children. This includes 386 families in “severely overcrowded” homes, including 107 council tenants who desperately need more space.

Cabinet member for better homes Meric Apak said: “This directly impacts their health, education and delays their developmental milestones. Overcrowded households are also at greater risk of experiencing damp and mould which were are determined to tackle.”

He said: “This has a massive impact on children in terms of their health and development.”

Cllr Apak said most of the demand is for two- and three-bedroom homes but 40 per cent of its properties are studios or one-bedroom flats.

The council hopes to buy back homes with a minimum of two bedrooms and will convert some properties into homes with four or more bedrooms.

It pledged to advertise homes it sells off locally and also “check” if the council-owned Camden Living Ltd company could buy them to rent.

It estimated that the company could buy two fifths of the homes for £20m.

John Wood, who chairs the tenants and residents association of Walkers House in Somers Town and is vice-chair of the Camden Town district management committee, welcomed the plan to reduce the number of empty homes.

He insisted that money from selling them off must be “ring-fenced” and ploughed into buying suitable homes and was given that assurance.

He told councillors some teenage boys and girls are forced to share bedrooms because of overcrowding.

He explained that five families in his block of 151 flats alone are overcrowded.

“It’s totally unacceptable in this day and age that they should be doing that and its not healthy for them. It doesn’t give then confidence that they’re going to go through school properly without help.”

Momota Khatoon, the vice-chair of Kentish Town district management committee, said living in overcrowding homes affects people’s mental health.

She gave her backing to the scheme and to incentives for residents to downsize if they no longer need extra space.

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